Friday, August 03, 2007

Private Thomas Scott Beauchamp And The New Republic Make Dan Rather Proud

You remember "fake but accurate", right? This slogan came from the story of Dan Rather using forged documents to prove Bush lied about his military record, and when shown that the documents were forged Rather said they were "fake but accurate". Well, this apparently is no longer something that evokes a good natured chuckle at the sheer ridiculousness of the statement. Now it appears that respected publications that many people look to for news and analysis are using this as a journalistic standard.

I present to you the case of one Private Thomas Scott Beauchamp, author of the "Baghdad Diarist", which was published by The New Republic. The diairies produced one particular story called "Shock Troops" in which Private Beauchamp wrote some chilling narrative that described horrific and atrocious behavior by hiself and other members of the US Military in Iraq.

"I saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq. She wore an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn't really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor. The thing that stood out about her, though, wasn't her strange uniform but the fact that nearly half her face was severely scarred. Or, rather, it had more or less melted, along with all the hair on that side of her head. She was always alone, and I never saw her talk to anyone. Members of my platoon had seen her before but had never really acknowledged her. Then, on one especially crowded day in the chow hall, she sat down next to us.

We were already halfway through our meals when she arrived. After a minute or two of eating in silence, one of my friends stabbed his spoon violently into his pile of mashed potatoes and left it there.
"Man, I can't eat like this," he said.
"Like what?" I said. "Chow hall food getting to you?"
"No--with that f**king freak behind us!" he exclaimed, loud enough for not only her to hear us, but everyone at the surrounding tables. I looked over at the woman, and she was intently staring into each forkful of food before it entered her half-melted mouth.
"Are you kidding? I think she's f**king hot!" I blurted out.
"What?" said my friend, half-smiling.
"Yeah man," I continued. "I love chicks that have been intimate--with IEDs. It really turns me on--melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses ... ."
"You're crazy, man!" my friend said, doubling over with laughter. I took it as my cue to continue.
"In fact, I was thinking of getting some girls together and doing a photo shoot. Maybe for a calendar? IED Babes.' We could have them pose in thongs and bikinis on top of the hoods of their blown-up vehicles."
My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing. The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall, her half-finished tray of food nearly falling to the ground."

Of course the purpose of this story was the following; according to Private Beauchamp "My pieces were always intended to provide my discrete view of the war; they were never intended as a reflection of the entire U.S. Military. I wanted Americans to have one soldier's view of events in Iraq." This by itself is honorable and warranted. We should all hope that Americans want to hear from soldiers like Marcus Luttrell and Danny Dietz, and what their perspective brings be it positive or negative. I have several friends who have been back and forth to Iraq and Afghanistan for several tours, and their perspective is invaluable.

But here is the problem. Private Scott Beauchamp LIED about one of the most shocking bits from his diairies. The whole story about the disfigured woman is complete and total bullshit. And what's even worse, is that the New Republic, when called on this story, supported Beauchamp and claimed "Thus far we've found nothing to disprove the facts in the article; we will release the full results of our search when it is completed." Conveniently, the editors at TNR then decided to go on vacation.

Predictably, the US Military does not take kindly to soldiers or civilians maligning the troops, and they started an investigation in to Beauchamps allegations and anecdotes. The investigation is finished, and Marine Reservist Matt Sanchez has a report on the the results of the investigation-

Beauchamp Investigation Concluded

After a thorough investigation that lasted nearly a week the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division has concluded that the allegations made by Private Thomas Scott Beauchamp, the "Baghdad Diarist", have been

"refuted by members of his platoon and proven to be false"

The official investigation the 4th IBCT Public Affairs Office qualified as "thorough and professional" concluded late August 1st. Officials would not speculate on the possibility of further action against Private Beauchamp, nor would they confirm his current whereabouts or status.

Sergeant First Class Robert Timmons, the acting public affairs official of the 4th IBCT, 1st ID, in the absence of Major Kirk Luedeke, remarked that despite the high level of attention this case received in the American media, soldiers at the 4th IBCT, 1st Inf. Div, a "surge" Brigade, have not been distracted from their missions.

Things should get interesting when the folks at TNR get back from vacation, because their credibility at this point is in tatters. And for a publication such as that to fail so completely at properly verifying such grandiose claims is inexcusable. But the more serious part is that is several left leaning comments on this particular issue, apologists for Beauchamp have moved on from attempting to verify the stories, and are now in Dan-Rathersville "fake but accurate" territory.

Now I don't doubt that there are soldiers out there who give the US Military a bad name. By sheer percentages alone there are bound to be some bad apples in the group that do stupid things when placed in hostile situations such as the conflict in Iraq.
But that doesn't mean people need to make up stories about them. One thing about America that differentiates us from other countries is our fearlessness in exposing our shortcomings and deficiencies. We aren't afraid to air our dirty laundry, because nothing disinfects better than sunlight.

But that doesn't mean we need to lie about these things just to get some sunlight shone.

And "fake but accurate" is no way to run a serious bi-weekly print magazine that claims to "provide its readers with an intelligent, stimulating and rigorous examination of American politics, foreign policy and culture."

The worst part of this whole thing is that liars like Private Beauchamp are now more well known than Medal of Honor recipients Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham and Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith.

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